The International Journal of Romanian Society of Endocrinology / Registered in 1938

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July - September 2009, Volume 5, Issue 3
Endocrine Care

Gheorghiu ML, Hortopan D, Dumitrascu A, Caragheorgheopol A,Stefanescu A, Trifanescu R, Niculescu DA, Baciu I, Carsote M,Poiana C, Badiu C, Coculescu M

Age-related endocrine tumors: non-functioning adrenal tumors as compared to pituitary adenomas

Acta Endo (Buc) 2009, 5 (3): 371-384
doi: 10.4183/aeb.2009.371

Background. Advances in imaging techniques have led to increasing discovery of\r\nadrenal and pituitary &#8220;incidentalomas&#8221;, tumors with normal endocrine function and no\r\ncompression mass effects. We evaluated the age at diagnosis (AD) in patients with benign\r\nnon-functioning adrenal incidentalomas, as compared to pituitary non-functioning tumors,\r\nin a series of patients from a national center of endocrinology. Methods. From 2,123\r\nconsecutive patients with adrenal and pituitary tumors hospitalized between 1977 - 2009,\r\n2,069 patients were analysed. The study groups included: group A - 137 patients with\r\nadrenal incidentalomas (AI), group B - 534 patients with pituitary incidentalomas (PI).\r\nControl groups included 1,398 patients: group C1 147 patients with adrenal carcinomas or\r\nbenign hormone-secreting adrenal tumors, and group C2, 1,251 patients with pituitary\r\nsecreting adenomas or large non-functioning pituitary macroadenomas (NFA). Imaging was\r\ndone by computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance after 1981 and by skull X-ray or\r\npneumoencephalography before 1981. Results. Mean age AD is more advanced in patients\r\nwith AI (53 ? 11.9 years, range 21 - 78 yr) than in patients with PI (36.8 ? 13.1 years, range\r\n10 - 81 yr), p < 0.01. AD was higher in AI than in patients with secreting adrenal tumors,\r\nbut similar in patients with adrenal malignancy. There is an age-related increase in the\r\nproportion of AI among patients with adrenal tumors, and of NFA, but not of PI, among\r\npatients with pituitary tumors. In patients aged over 65 years, 74% of patients with adrenal\r\ntumors have AI, while only 18% of patients with pituitary tumors have PI and 42% have\r\nNFA. AD in NFA (49.3 ? 13.1 yr, range 12 - 79 yr) was more advanced than in PI (p < 0.01).\r\nAD does not correlate with tumor size. Tumor growth occurred in 24% of AI (follow-up 3.0\r\n? 2.8 yr) and only in 0.7% of PI, p<0.01 (follow-up 3.1 ? 2.5 yr).\r\nConclusions. Adrenal non-functioning benign tumors show a clear association with ageing,\r\nin contrast with pituitary incidentalomas. It seems unlikely that most pituitary incidentalomas in\r\nyoung patients become large NFA, whose development seems to be also age-related. It is tempting\r\nto suggest that pituitary tumorigenesis starts earlier than adrenal tumorigenesis.

Keywords: ageing, adrenal, pituitary, incidentaloma, non-functioning adenoma

Correspondence: Mihail Coculescu MD, PhD, National Institute of Endocrinology Bd. Aviatorilor, 011863, Bucharest, Romania, Phone/Fax: + 4021 3198718, e-mail: